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Crusaders primed for play-offs

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Sportal.co.nz     14 Jul 2012     Getty Images

They seemed assured of a home play-off match next weekend as a result of their win but second half sloppiness ensured there would be plenty to work on during the week, especially at the scrum and breakdown.

Penalties conceded in the second half by the Crusaders at the breakdown resulted in them playing the last six minutes of the game without flanker George Whitelock who was sin-binned, requiring the side to have their fourth captain on the evening.

It also meant the Force were able to claim their third try of the night, to replacement halfback Josh Holmes, after good work by No.8 Lachlan McCaffrey off the base of the scrum who fed Holmes into space on the blindside.

The Force, who were on the end of two 50-50 calls from the Television Match Official (TMO), did not help themselves in the final instance with some untidy re-starts and hesitant play during the first half especially.

With a bonus point secured in the first half, Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder rested his key personnel, captain and No.8 on the night Richie McCaw and first five-eighths Dan Carter at half-time.

As if the task of containing a Crusaders team on the hunt for maximum points was not enough, the Force conceded a try, albeit controversially awarded, after 44 seconds to fullback Israel Dagg. TMO Vinnie Munro was not convinced Dagg had lost control of the ball in grounding it in the corner.

There was no doubt about the second try, however, scored by right wing Sean Maitland on the left-hand side of the field after a typically well constructed build-up from the home team.

Force determination was rewarded with a mid-spell penalty goal to Ben Seymour but Carter replied with a goal of his own in the 31st minute.

That unleashed the Crusaders in full cry, firstly through a try to halfback Andy Ellis which again needed the seal of approval from the TMO in the 33rd minute and then from the re-start, captain and No.8 Richie McCaw charged downfield after securing the ball to set in train a movement which ended with flanker Matt Todd diving over in the corner.

Replacement five-eighths Kyle Godwin shifted the impetus in attack when introduced early in the second half and had his reward with a 53rd minute try, revealing fine handling skills in executing the chance which was converted by halfback Brett Sheehan.

Then in the 59th minute as the Force set up camp in the Crusaders 22m area another touch of class from Godwin produced in in-pass to fullback Alfie Mafi who scored handy to the posts.

Nick Cummins' wing may have been in a heavy traffic area but he was a game competitor while his fellow wing Napolioni Nalaga featured with some strong running in combination with Mafi and both made try-saving tackles.

Loose forwards, McCaffrey and flankers Angus Cottrell and Richard Brown had a busy time trying to contain the marauding Crusaders loosemen.

Scorers:

Crusaders 38 (Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland, Andy Ellis, Matt Todd tries; Dan Carter 3 con 2 pen; Tom Taylor 2 pen) Force 24 (Kyle Godwin, Alfie Mafi , Josh Holmes tries; Brett Sheehan 2 con; Ben Seymour pen; Kyle Goodwin con).HT: 32-3